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The impact of pets on domestic violence victims

47583144_S.jpgDomestic violence victims living in St. Louis and around the country face unique challenges. Many would like to leave their current situation but face numerous obstacles, including fear of their abusers, financial problems and even concern about what will happen to their pets.

Recent studies have shown that domestic abusers will often abuse or threaten companion animals as a way of controlling their human victims. For example, an abuser might threaten to harm a victim's pet if the victim does not comply with the abuser's demands. In other cases, the abuser may harm the pet as a way of further terrorizing the partner.

Another problem is that victims may turn down opportunities to leave the abuser out of concern over what will happen to a beloved pet. Many domestic violence shelters do not accept pets, and friends or family members may be happy to take in a victim but unable to accommodate an animal. As a result, the victim could feel obligated to protect and care for the pet at the expense of their own welfare.

The domestic violence community is becoming more aware of the role that companion animals play in developing effective interventions. In the meantime, however, victims must often struggle with competing concerns regarding their own welfare and the welfare of their pets.

Victims of domestic violence may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney as they make a plan to exit a destructive relationship. The lawyer could review the client's situation and make recommendations regarding child custody and divorce matters. With a better understanding of the law, it's often easier for victims to make sound decisions about moving on from a destructive situation.

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